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GlaxoSmithKline faces corruption allegations in Poland

Pharma giant allegedly paid doctors to promote asthma drug, claims BBC Panorama investigation

Caroline White

Monday, 14 April 2014

Pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline is facing a criminal investigation in Poland for allegedly bribing doctors, a BBC Panorama investigation has discovered.

In the programme, to be broadcast tonight, a former sales rep claims that doctors were paid to promote GSK's asthma drug Seretide.

Last year, the company was caught up in allegations that it had bribed hospital officials and doctors in China to promote its products.

According to a report on BBC News online, 11 doctors and a GSK regional manager have been charged over alleged corruption between 2010 and 2012.

The BBC News online report points out that if the allegations are proved, GSK may have violated both the UK Bribery Act and the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

According to the BBC, a former sales rep for GSK in Lodz, Jarek Wisniewski, says in the programme that: "There is a simple equation. We pay doctors, they give us prescriptions. We don't pay doctors, we don't see prescriptions for our drugs.”

He adds: "We cannot go to doctors and say to them, 'I need 20 more prescriptions'. So we prepare an agreement for them to give a talk to patients, we pay £100, but we expect more than 100 prescriptions for this drug.”

Although the payments were for educational services, the doctors understood very clearly that they must produce a certain number of prescriptions in return, said Mr Wisniewski.

According to BBC News Online, one doctor has already admitted guilt and been given a suspended sentence. He said he accepted £100 for a single lecture he never gave, but only under pressure from a GSK drugs rep.

In a statement issued today in response to the allegations, GlaxoSmithKline said: “A GSK programme to assist in improving diagnostic standards and medical training, in order to benefit patient treatment and care with regard to respiratory disease, was run by doctors and other healthcare professionals in Poland. The programme ran from 2010 to 2012.”

It went on: “Training on proper diagnostics for medical personnel and group meetings for patients were organised as part of this programme. These sessions were delivered by specialist healthcare professionals who, based on contracts signed with GSK, received payments appropriate to the scope of work as well as their level of knowledge and experience. The provision of sessions under this programme was agreed with the Polish healthcare centres.”

It said: “Following receipt of allegations in 2011 regarding the conduct of the programme in the Lodz region, GSK has investigated the matter, using resources from both inside and outside the company. The investigation found evidence of inappropriate communication in contravention of GSK policy by a single employee. The employee concerned was reprimanded and disciplined in 2011.”

The company said that it continued to investigate these matters and was cooperating fully with the relevant authorities.

The statement additionally said that the company agreed that there was a need to “modernise” interactions between the pharmaceutical industry and healthcare professionals “to ensure patients’ interests are always put first and to eliminate even a perception of a conflict of interest.”

It added: “This is why we have made, and will continue to make, fundamental changes to our business such as opening up access to our clinical trial data, changing how we pay our sales representatives and stopping payments to healthcare professionals for speaking engagements and for attendance at medical conferences.”

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